Ongoing Project:

Enhancing Cultural Literacy to Improve Refugee Mental Healthcare During COVID-19: An Innovative Educational Initiative for Supporting Culturally Sensitive Service Provision and Community Engagement

Researchers: Dillion Browne1, Jean de Dieu Basabose2, Jackson Smith1, Michael Stephenson2, Nistren Ferwana2.3
Whole Family Laboratory, University of Waterloo1, Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre2, University of Toronto3
Research Partner:
Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre
Keywords: refugees, newcomers, mental health, service providers, mental health professionals, cultural literacy, evaluation, intervention, e-learning, community-based research, action research, COVID-19


Overview: This study explores issues related to cultural literacy in the provision of services to refugee families. The research team will develop and evaluate an online capacity-building module to improve the cultural literacy of service provider organizations (SPOs). Cultural literacy refers to the ability to understand, engage with, embrace, engage with, value, and capitalize on the traditions, activities, and history of a group of people from a given culture.

Objective: To better understand the issues related to a lack or low level of cultural literacy in SPOs providing mental health services to refugees and to develop and evaluate educational resources to promote cultural literacy for refugee mental health professionals. The project intends to contribute to improving refugee mental health practice by increasing awareness of personal and cultural prejudices and their impact on the patient-provider relationship, particularly during COVID-19.

Research Justification: COVID-19 highlights a diversity in cultural literacy that makes it difficult for refugee families to comply with Public Health directives, putting themselves and others at risk of infection and increasing their marginalization and financial insecurity. It is important to increase the cultural literacy of refugee mental healthcare providers to ensure that they are prepared to adapt to the cultural behaviours of their patients. 


This study will apply a community-based research approach and use an action research methodology. Group and individual interviews and discussion sessions will be conducted with Sanctuary staff to explore issues related to cultural literacy in the provision of services to refugee families. A problem-based e-learning module will be developed targeting those who work in refugee mental health care, mainly doctors, social workers, counsellors, and allied staff and administrators of clinics. Sixteen participants from Sanctuary and its partners will participate in evaluating the e-learning module.

Explore more projects

Go to Top